iamtheinvisiblehand

Archive for September 2012

I read an article last week on a mother that was charged with child abuse for “smooshing” (I don’t really know what that means but that is how the article described it) the kid who had recently bullied her son.

It appears that she’d heard that her son had encountered some trouble with a bigger kid, so she escorted her son to take the bus in the morning. The bully showed up and started arguing with the boy before even boarding the bus. The mother took action, the teen retaliated (!!!), and then the mother followed the bully onto the bus and pulled his hair. All this was caught on video and all the mother had to say was that she didn’t really regret it. 

The bullying topic is permanently discussed on parenting sites and blogs and the consensus seems to be the same: even though schools have established policies regarding the topic, at some point someone else has to do something about it (either the parents or the child have to eventually take a stance) because the law constrains the authorities way too much to truly be able to take care of things.

My take is that there is something essentially wrong with the way the issue is being dealt with and with the lack of consequences (or enforcement actions) that somehow conveys the message that bullying is ok.

I mean, bullying isn’t new. It’s always been present and is a part of many kids’ daily routine. The thing is, nowadays, it’s just so much more difficult to straighten up your kids when everything is now set up to “protect” the children, even in the cases in which they are the bad guys. And I’m not even talking about spanking the kids, which is not allowed anymore, but about truly and unequivocally letting them know why and how this is unacceptable behavior and making sure they never abuse anyone in any situation again.

Would I have done what the mother in the news did? Probably not. And I’m the mother who shamelessly shouted at another toddler on the beach for throwing sand at my daughter’s face. But it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have gone to the bully’s parents and the school to tell them all about their son’s cowardly actions.

People are always trying to explain bullying by stating that bullies have low self-esteem, are insecure, their parents usually pay no attention to them, and the list goes on and on forever. However, no one ever tries to analyze what happens with the bullied child, or what the long and short-term consequences are. The problem is always focused on the perpetrator and never on the victim. What does that say about us as a society?

In my opinion, there are two types of bullying: traditional bullying, which usually involves boys violently beating up other (smaller) boys. The other, is bullying among girls. This is a lot harder to spot, because it’s subtle. You’ll never see any bruises or scratches. And yet, bullying among girls is just as dangerous because it strips the bullied girls of any self-confidence they may have. It’s more if-you-don’t-bring-me-the-English-paper-by-tomorrow-I-wont-let-you-sit-at-our-lunch-table. Or in the case of smaller girls, if-you-don’t-come-to-school-with-a-ponytail-we-won’t-play-with-you. That is really dangerous, because if you aren’t truly alert, you’ll never see the signs until the damage is done and it’s probably too late.

The topic is way too broad and has so many takes that it’s impossible to condense it in a few lines. I will say, however, that I’m convinced that bad kids who aren’t taught that actions have consequences, turn into bad adults. Not being the religious type or a believer in divine retribution, there is, however, one thing I’ve instilled in my daughter and that is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. The good part is it’s easy enough to understand and I know she gets it because when other kids treat her or someone else badly she always asks them if they would like to be treated that way too and it usually stops the offender.

But then of course, she’s only 6 and at some point it will no longer be enough. That’s why I’ve also told her to defend herself or fight back if someone does anything to hurt her. It’s not ideal, and my daughter’s school strongly disapproves, but kids have to learn that it’s ok to stand up for themselves if they are being attacked, because the world isn’t an easy place and not all people are good. What’s the alternative, turn the other cheek? No thanks. But even though they have to learn to stay out of trouble, they must also learn that it’s ok to tell a teacher or an adult if someone else is being mistreated. We can’t allow our kids to be bystanders just for the sake of protecting them.

I heard from a friendly couple whose son attends my daughter’s school that last year there was a bully in his class. A full-blown bully who would beat up other kids in the bathroom or in the corridors on a daily basis. Mind you, this was happening in second grade, not junior high. Anyway, the problem was spotted early enough during the year and the bully’s parents were instructed to take the boy to therapy to deal with it. The school told those affected to be patient, that it was being handled, but it just went on and on and it wasn’t until the end of the school year that the kid was expelled.   

As a parent, to be informed that your child is a bully that is physically or psychologically hurting other kids must be a fatal blow. However, seeing it as the parent of a bully’s victim, how can you be told to “be patient” and expect your child to understand that it’s going to be ok, even though he gets slapped around every other day? How can you just stand aside and allow you kid to get hurt? I honestly don’t know how the victims’ parents handled it, but I know I would have pestered my daughter’s teachers and the school’s principal every single day until some effective action was taken. So the bully was expelled? Big deal, he was given a whole school year to inflict pain on so many of his classmates that I’m pretty sure the damage to those he bullied will last longer than the bully’s punishment (if any) or remorse (if any).

Anyway, regardless of the reasons why a child becomes a bully, I’m convinced that the parents are the only ones who can nip the problem in the bud. Sure, schools and the authorities may lend a hand, but if a child doesn’t get the message at home (loud and clear) that abusing others is wrong and unacceptable, there’s really nothing left for the others to do. 

A few days ago there was a minor scandal regarding the purchase of some refrigerators.

This is what happened: the largest retail store in the nation (think Wal-Mart adjusted to the local economy of a country with 40 million inhabitants) started selling refrigerators worth $2.000 for $200. There was obviously some kind of typo, but the price was published that way and people started purchasing the refrigerators and had them delivered to their homes, meaning that the mistake went unnoticed for some time.

It appears that many employees of one of the largest banks in the country (which, incidentally, is not only one of the wealthiest banks, but just as the retailer, it is also a part of one of the largest local economic groups,)  took advantage of the situation and started buying them. 

The bank’s CEO caught wind of the whole thing and wrote a letter to his employees admonishing them for their lack of ethics. I haven’t found the letter on the net, but it seems it was quite heartfelt.

When I read the whole story, I was a little surprised, but not necessarily at the attitude of those who made the purchase. I mean, as a customer you must practice the whole “caveat emptor” premise, but that goes both ways: for the bad (making sure you really get what you purchase and not something else) and also for the good (if the price is right and it’s not illegal, you can buy it). Besides, customers have no way of knowing if these are mistakes or if they are real promotions, so why attack them?

What really shocked me, was that the CEO had the nerve to come out and criticize the employees’ actions, when banks are by far, the most corrupt and unethical organizations, second only to everything government and politics-related.

I mean, aren’t banks fully responsible for the current (and prior) recession? Their  constant quest for more profits in complete disregard of reality and the truth have turned them into heartless, greedy entities that somehow manage to charge you +30% annual interest rate on your credit card, but only get you 0.25% per month on your savings account, all this with the government’s permission. And how about the cost of every single transaction? It doesn’t matter whether you transact at the bank, online or at the ATM, everything costs you, even though you are handling your own money.

When banks are in trouble, everyone has to pitch in to save them. For instance, a few years ago, the financial system of the country was in trouble, and so the government imposed a sort of tax on every single financial transaction to save the banks. Today, the financial system of the nation boasts $8 trillion in profit for the first half of 2012, almost $2 trillion of which belong to the banks, and we are still paying the tax, even though they are clearly out of the woods. And yet, when the people really need the money, the financial system is unwilling to lend a hand, which is quite unfair considering that the only reason there are profits to be made is because we gave them our money in the first place.

And don’t get me started on the torture of visiting the bank: there are 5 windows but only 2 cashiers (who, by the way, are paid very little and are asked to work ungodly hours, for the most part), so you must dispose of at least 30 minutes to waste, if not more. Where I live, if you are going to pay your bills in the bank with your card, and if the sum transacted amounts to less than $600, which is the maximum amount you are able to withdraw per day, you are charged a fee. They recommend paying in cash in these cases. I thought the whole point was to handle less cash and encourage the use of the card, but I guess whatever excuse to make you pay more is valid. If you want a cashier’s check, for instance, it costs about $20 for the bank to issue a check. Really? It costs $20 to have a clerk process the request and have the manager sign the check?

And I haven’t even mentioned the behavior of the retailer.

I used to work for another retailer a few years ago and I vividly remember what some suppliers would tell me about the way they were treated at this store in particular. It became so bad, many local suppliers chose to stop selling their goods there, as the fees and discounts were so steep they were barely cutting even. And I’m not even talking about the small suppliers: many of those who left were huge and did well enough to afford losing the sales made by this retailer. THAT’s how bad they were treated.

So in this case, I don’t feel sorry for the retailer, although I do feel sorry for those responsible for the mistake, because they surely lost their job, were forced to pay the price difference, or both, who knows. And, I don’t really think the people who bought the refrigerator should feel bad either, since, IMHO, there is no ethical conflict there. And last but not least, even though the bank’s CEO is a highly respected figure, he should have known better than to criticize his employees when every single thing he stands for is the reason why these things happen in the first place.



  • None
  • Carrie Rubin: I don't always remember names well, but I remember circumstances. I especially remembered yours because it's such a rare cancer, and you were the firs
  • iamtheinvisiblehand: Thank you for your kind words, but also thank you for remembering it was me....it's amazing that you'd remember this considering the endless stream of
  • Carrie Rubin: I am so sorry to hear about your mother. After you commented on my blog yesterday, I remembered that your mother was the one who had cholangiocarcinom

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